As decreasing reimbursements put the squeeze on medical practice profits, practice administrators must look for ways to do more with less, to economize even while they look for ways to boost efficiency and productivity. And while there are many places to look in a busy medical practice, one of the most effective is often the most easily overlooked: Automated patient communication.
Unfortunately, practices are sometimes hesitant to activate automated communications; after all, robo-calls can get a bad rap. But when it comes to patient communication, automated messages are actually very well received.
Besides sharing useful information, automated messages can make a patient feel more valued and more connected to the practice, especially if they are customized to particular situations.
Unsure if automated practice communications are right for your practice? Here are some great uses and potential benefits to your group.
1. Appointment Reminders
This is the most commonly implemented type of automated communication and it has many benefits:
- Fewer no-shows
- Improved co-pay collections
- Decreased costs/no mailers
- Increased operational efficiency, less non-productive staff hours
Appointment reminders can also be customized to the type of appointment or procedure the patient has scheduled; these type of reminders can improve the overall quality of patient care and help patients prepare for their visit.
2. Pre-Op and/or Post Procedure Instructions
Depending on your practice needs and your patient population, using an automated communication system to deliver pre-op instructions and information for self-care post-operative can be extremely useful. Some patients are more receptive to verbal instructions, they may have difficulty remembering discussions in the office, or they may have limited reading comprehension skills. If patients can return to a voice message before and after a procedure, they may be more likely to understand and follow postoperative instructions, and better recognize signs of potential complications.
3. New Patient Welcome Calls
This automated communication is a great way to introduce patients to your practice and inform them of important practice policies they should keep in mind. While you can always use this call as an appointment reminder, you can also share the following types of information:
- Whether they need to bring any previous records and how to obtain them.
- The amount of their co-pay and acceptable payment methods
- Cancellation policies
4. Secure SMS Text Communications
Secure mobile technology offers a great advantage to practices whose patients opt into a secure text message system. In addition to being extremely attractive to patients themselves (studies show that most consumers would prefer to receive customer service information via text message), they have the added advantage of being interactive, as well.
For example, when text messages are used as appointment reminders, patients can reply with a text to confirm or cancel an appointment with one simple transaction.
Practices that incorporate SMS texting into their patient communications systems should remember that texts should also be treated as a potential security risk; any texts between patients and staff should be evaluated for PHI and added to the medical record if necessary. In addition, keep in mind the following:
- Limit text communications to non-urgent matters.
- Patients should be informed of your text messaging policies and consent to receive them, or lack thereof, should be noted in the patient’s record.
- Text policies should include guidelines for accessing, maintaining, recording, deleting, auditing, and monitoring all text communications.
One final note: Automated communications don’t always need to be related to practice policies or other health care matters. You can use calls or texts to wish patients happy birthday, for example, or to survey patients about their experience with your practice.
If you’d like more information about how to increase practice efficiency and improve your bottom line, the professional consultants at M-Scribe are happy to work with you and explore your options. Contact us today for an evaluation.